Diagnosing scoliosis 

Scoliosis can usually be diagnosed after a physical examination of the spine, ribs, hips and shoulders.

You may be asked to bend forward to see if any areas are particularly prominent. For example, one of your shoulders may be higher than the other or there may be a bulge in your back.

Initial examinations are usually carried out by a GP. If scoliosis is suspected, you should be referred to an orthopaedic specialist (a specialist in conditions that affect the skeleton) for further tests and to discuss treatment.


The orthopaedic specialist will take an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis of scoliosis.

The X-ray images will also help determine the shape, direction, location and angle of the curve. The medical name for the angle the spine curves is known as the Cobb angle.

In some cases, scans such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a computerised tomography (CT) scan may also be recommended. 

Page last reviewed: 29/01/2015

Next review due: 29/01/2017